The Boston Red Sox were still cursed. Tweets were still bird noises. And Greece was prepping to host the Summer Olympics, not the scourge of the global economy. Such was life in May of 2004, which, until today, marked the last time Roger Federer failed to reach the semifinals of a Grand Slam tennis tournament.
One of the more remarkable, and underappreciated, sports streaks ended in Paris, as Robin Soderling of Sweden eliminated Federer from this year’s French Open, 3-6, 6-3, 7-5, 6-4, in a quarterfinal match marred by rain. The lanky, strong-serving Swede is developing into quite the upset specialist – last year, he ended Rafael Nadal’s streak of four consecutive French titles by knocking him out of the fourth round.
Soderling and Nadal, who has yet to drop a set at this year’s French, are now on a path to stage a rematch in the finals; with Federer’s loss, Nadal will also reclaim his number one world ranking.
It’s fitting that Federer’s 23-tournament streak ended at the French, his weakest Grand Slam (he won his first and only title last year, beating Soderling in the Final). If Federer’s game has anything close to a weakness, it’s his consistency on clay. An era will truly end when Federer fails to reach the semis at Wimbledon, a tournament he can probably win while changing the diapers of his twin daughters, or on the hard courts of New York or Melbourne.
Still, a Grand Slam semi without Federer is surely going to feel weird. And it’s sure to remind sports fans that, amidst all the grousing about Federer’s lack of charisma, we probably should have savored his ungodly talent a bit more.